Universality of culture ‘Ogoh-ogoh’ and Nebuta
Brisbania Ayu Saraswati ; The writer studies at the department of Japanese studies at the School of Humanities, University of Indonesia
JAKARTA POST, 29 Maret 2014
The prayers for the celebration of Nyepi, the holy day of silence for Balinese Hindus on Monday, include: “May all beings be happy”. Natural harmony in the relationship between man and the universe is very important for Balinese Hindus. Therefore, the Saka New Year differs from that of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar, when family and friends gather in merriness.
Nyepi is actually held in celebration of Saka New Year, a day to ask the Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (creator) to maintain alignment between human beings and the universe. During Nyepi, Hindus adhere to Amati Geni (abstinence from lighting fires), Amati Karya (abstinence from working), Amati Lelanguan (abstinence from having fun) and Amati Lelungan (abstinence from traveling).
Bali will be largely silent on Monday and, from midnight until 6 p.m. the next day, every single light will be turned off. The Balinese are not permitted to cook or light a fire, should not converse and should stay inside their homes. In every alley and street, the pecalang (civil security officers) of each banjar (village) will ensure that all citizens respect Nyepi.
Whenever Nyepi falls on a Friday, one observes interfaith tolerance as Muslims in Bali hold their Friday prayers without the customary loudspeakers. They are also required to go to the mosque on foot, to avoid noise from vehicles.
Three days before Nyepi, rituals are held to purify the living environment of the spirits, the Bhuta King, Bhuta Kala and Batara Kala, so they do not interfere with humans. The ritual sequences are melasti (praying at temples), pecaruan (offerings) and pengrupukan (spreading rice, lighting homes with torches and making noise by hitting objects).
Pengrupukan is usually followed by the festival of the ogoh-ogoh (giant effigies), held on the eve of Nyepi. This festival involves a giant puppet being parade around the banjar — the puppet being the image of Bhuta Kala — so that Bhuta Kala is expelled from the surrounding environment. The ritual, which ends in the burning of the puppet, aims to neutralize the human spirit and nature, to enable a solemn celebration of Nyepi.
In the modern context, ogoh-ogoh can take the form of any character as long as they represent the evil objects that harm people’s lives and environment. In Denpasar, the ogoh-ogoh festival usually takes a roundabout route not far from the Sanglah Hospital, and always attracts throngs of residents and tourists. For the celebration of Saka New Year 1936, which falls on March 31 this year, the ogoh-ogoh will be specifically to prevent unwanted occurrences during the elections and associated campaigns.
In Japan, the Nebuta Festival is held every year on Aug. 2-7. This festival is also a ritual of cleansing oneself of the evil demons that cause drowsiness and laziness when working in the fields and harvesting rice during summer. As locals fear such laziness could affect their survival, they make giant puppets in the form of their heroes, including samurai, fighting the evil demons. The parade in the Aomori prefecture aims to drive out the evil demons by the end of the festival. On Aug. 7, the puppets are herded into the sea to be washed away, to enable residents to return to work in the summer.
The culture of one nation is often similar to other cultures. Such universality of culture is reflected in rituals like the festivals of ogoh-ogoh and Nebuta.
The ritual of purifying the self and the environment from evil demons to safeguard the survival of mankind is the most important part of the rituals during Nyepi and the ogoh-ogoh procession, and also in the Nebuta festival. The chants and prayers essentially seek the attainment of happiness in the world of living creatures. Asia is a continent with strong cultures, where its people generally keep in contact with the Creator, to safeguard themselves and all other beings living with them.
Happy Nyepi day, and may all beings be happy. ●